Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Q&A with Namrata Patel


Photo by Andy Dean


Namrata Patel is the author of the new novel The Curious Secrets of Yesterday. Her other books include the novel The Candid Life of Meena Dave. She lives in Boston.


Q: What inspired you to write The Curious Secrets of Yesterday, and how did you create your character Tulsi?


A: I wanted to really explore passive heroines. In most Western storytelling the frame is the hero's journey or heroine's journey. In Eastern cultures the frame is the hero or heroine reacting to the world.


So Tulsi came to me as a passive person who just let things happen to her. Her life was chosen by her grandmother and mother and she never pushed against it even though she didn't want that life. But when she discovers a family secret, she's pushed into acting on it.


This is how I wanted to examine how many of us who straddle Eastern and Western cultures may approach life. She's at times too laid back or stuck, and it might chafe readers who are looking for more driven heroines, but there is value in the pace at which you are compelled to act. Tulsi takes that journey through this novel.  


Q: How was the novel’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: Oof. Titles are difficult. For me I'd rather write 90,000 words than choose the four words that capture the story. This title was a culmination of many brainstorming sessions and feedback from both my agent and editor. I do think it really fits the story because it speaks to how past secrets can lead to profound change. 

Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: This one, I struggled with. I didn't necessarily want it to end the way it did, but once I got to know Tulsi, I realized she's not who I thought she was, and so I wrote the ending that stayed true to her character. 


Q: What do you think the novel says about family history?


A: That we think we know, we make assumptions, but do we really know all of the truths that are in our past? We rely on journals and letters, oral tales, lore, etc. All of that comes with the biases of the family member who is sharing that history. So what really is the true past from which we are forged? 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am writing about a mother and daughter who are at a crossroads and how their decisions at two different stages in life lead to a better understanding of the choice each takes. 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I hope the readers adore Tulsi and learn a little more about spices and Ayurveda along the way.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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